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Correspondence between Nick Mason and a critic, 1994-5 Print E-mail

Following a negative review of the Floyd show in Chicago 1994, we find an actively concerned Mason confronting Chicago’s premier music critic and DJ, Jim DeRogatis. To follow is an exerpt of DeRogatis’ original review along with his series of correspondence with Mason... (This article originally appeared in Brain Damage issue 36)

LOTS OF FLASH, BUT FLOYD’S NOT ALL HERE

Exerpted from the Chicago Sun-Times - July 14, 1994 by Jim DeRogatis

The show opened strong despite the soggy weather with a spirited rendition of Astronomy Domine... It was the only time that the three veterans were onstage without an army of backing musicians. Together with bassist Guy Pratt, they tore through the frantic psychedelic rocker as vintage oil slides were projected overhead.

Except for the fact that they all had beer bellies, unnatural tans and designer T-Shirts tucked into well-pressed trousers, the Floyds could have been 25 year-old art students again instead of 52 year-old millionaires.

Unfortunately, that spirit disappeared for the rest of the night as any possibility of spontaneity or true musical interaction was sacrificed to pristine high-fidelity sound and computer-controlled special effects.

Mason’s roto-tom solo on Time was out of it, Dick Parry’s sax playing was wretched on Great Gig in the Sky and Us & Them, and Money was dragged down by a funked-up groove and bogus extended jam...


Dear Jim,
I’m sorry that this letter comes so long after your piece in the Sun-Times last July but I would like to respond and let you know how truly sorry I am that you did not care for our merry tunes & twinkling lights, and take issue with a couple of points that you made.

I have no excuses for my rototom solo; and only Dick “Ninja” Parry can answer for his solos, though he probably won’t, since he’s too busy with his collection of guns and knives and I didn’t want to bother him since as you may know he is of a disposition that makes Rambo seem like Mister Rogers...

My interest is why you should confuse your disapproval of our show with all that arrant nonsense about fake tans, our figures and our dress sense? We don’t have room in the road boxes for sun beds, and anyway no one in the audience could possibly distinguish our tan levels. I can only imagine that Banana Republic are going to be pretty excited that in Chicago they are considered designer T-Shirts. Thanks, however, for the well-pressed trousers mention, my mum still worries about that sort of thing.

I am still unclear as to why anyone over one hundred and fifty pounds weight should not be allowed to perform, but since you seem to have a mass of rules regarding skin tone and dress codes I expect there are plenty more covering size, shape and lifestyle.

I do accept the argument about show versus music, but have to say that I think our current show is the right balance between the two. If the people who pay for the tickets start to complain, rest assured I’ll get right back to you for advice.

As I see it, we do the show with Janet Jackson dressed grunge, hold the mirror ball, ask Champion the Wonder Horse to do the mix, find someone less able than Marc Brickman to run the lights (they are switched manually each night, not run by computer as you suggest) and wait for critical acclaim.

I’m not holding my breath...!

Your bloodied, but unbowed,
one hundred and seventy pound (ish) pop-star chum,
Nick Mason


Dear Nick,
Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I was flattered to receive it (it beats the time Billy Joel called me a “scumbag”) because I am genuinely a fan of Pink Floyd and of you in particular. The only reason I knew that Time was out of time is that I used to play along as an aspiring teenaged drummer. I wasted way too many hours with that dizzying segment in Live in Pompeii illustrating your Saucerful drum loop; I own and enjoy your solo albums (especially the one with Carla Bley), and I think your production for Robert Wyatt and the Damned was brilliant.

I am writing you back to clear up a misunderstanding. I LOVE fat rock ‘n’ rollers. The beer bellies and fake tan lines was a low blow, and I am redfaced at having stooped to the sort of size discrimination that I have abhored elsewhere in this vacuous business.

The musical complaints are another story, and I would love to interview you about them. I’ll turn on the tape recorder and run it as a straight Q & A, no snotty editorial comments, I swear! I’m from the punk (grunge?) school of criticism. Just because I have this job, that doesn’t mean my opinions are any better than yours or those of the cabbie on Michigan Avenue. I promise to give you your say if you give me a bit of your time. I’ll add here that I am writing a book called Turn On Your Mind: A Critical History of Psychedelic Rock From Acid Tests to Raves, and of course, the Floyd figure prominently. I’ve only spoken to Dave directly, but I’d love to get your perspective.

I’m flattered at the suggestion, but I really couldn’t give the Floyd advice, because it would be a potential conflict of interest. I will say, however, that you are a talented and witty writer and really ought to consider freelancing for the NME.

Best,
Your unrepentent 340-pound rock-critic chum,
Jim DeRogatis


Dear PenPal,
Thanks for the fax and article... which I enjoyed. Very happy to talk on a future occasion. If you’re ever in the UK at the right time you can reach me at [deleted]. Good luck with your book. I’m attempting a PF one myself! (Perhaps you remember 1967 - I don’t...)

y.p.s.c. Nick

Many thanks to Jim DeRogatis for taking time out to talk with me during a recent “Spiritualized/Siouxsie and the Banshees” concert, for supplying his correspondence with Nick Mason, and providing BD publicity on-air and in print. - Jeff Jensen

 
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